The end of the parasha deals with a certain type of guilt offering:
Notably, it’s an offering brought after some sort of financial crime, a בין אדם לחברו, that has been brought to court and the perpetrator swears that they are innocent but are later found to have been lying. This is called מעלה מעל בה׳, a betrayal of G-d, not just of one’s fellow. We might think that the מעילה, the crime against ה׳, was in swearing falsely, but the discussion of the same offering in ספר במדבר makes it clear that the crime itself is called מעילה בה׳:
Violating דיני ממנות is a crime against G-d as well. It demonstrates a lack of faith:
An agreement between us has the implicit participation of ה׳ as well. And it is that agreement—the social contract—that matters, even when we haven’t directly met, as with a lost object, or we never “agreed”, as with robbery. What’s interesting about דיני ממנות is that it is the one place that civil, secular law is determinative, even when it conflicts with the halacha as presented in חושן משפט:
Rav Shimon Shkop was one of the gedolim of pre-war Europe, noted for having an analytical approach to halacha that incorporated a theory of legal philosophy, that was in contrast to the “Brisker method”:
His discussion starts with noting that גזלה is a מצוה דאורייתא, but it, like all דיני ממנות, is treated very differently:
But in the case of theft, if we don’t have proof, we don’t call it a ספק and say “nobody gets it”; we say המוציא מחבירו עליו הראיה. Why not?
So if דיני המשפטים are related to society, not religion per se, why is violating them מעילה בה׳? Rav Shkop, in his introduction to his magnum opus שערי יושר, explains what money is supposed to mean:
The message is that ה׳ created us to want stuff. That isn’t morally wrong, but our responsibility is to realize that the stuff are tools, not the goal. And so the מעלה מעל בה׳ is not in the act of stealing per se but in the act of denying that someone else owns something.
ה׳ gave us (as a society) the ability to define what counts as private property. It is part of דרך ארץ, the ethical law inherent in the nature of humanity as created. The details were left to human society. But conforming to that system, to מנהג המדינה, is an act of faith in ה׳ and asserting ownership outside that system is לִמְעֹל מַעַל בַּה׳.